BROWARD SCHOOLS

Broward schools audit finds security firm overbilled

 

mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

A private security firm hired to protect Broward school district properties was overbilling for the service, according to an internal audit presented to Broward School Board members Wednesday.

The audit documented more than $129,000 in overbilling by Georgia-based U.S. Security Associates, and faulted the district’s “inadequate” oversight of the charges, many of which have been paid.

Among the improper charges: “golf cart” fees that were added to all hours billed, instead of limited to the hours when a cart was actually used; 18 percent late-payment fees, even though no late payment penalties were allowed; and thousands of dollars’ worth of excessive man-hours billed to the district.

“This is another embarrassment to us,” School Board member Ann Murray said.

Chimed in board member Patricia Good: “This is so frustrating on so many levels.”

The district plans to subtract some of the overcharges from the company’s final invoice, while also pursuing a refund of $86,460.

U.S. Security Associates could not be reached late Wednesday for comment.

The district’s chief auditor, Patrick Reilly, discovered the overbilling after being asked by Superintendent Robert Runcie to review the U.S. Security contract. Though stung by the audit’s findings, board members said they took solace in the fact that the district initiated the review on its own.

Broward’s school district — run by a relatively new superintendent and a mostly new board — has been trying to shed the baggage of corruption scandals that rocked the school system in previous years.

Board members expressed hope that the district has turned the corner in monitoring its contracts with companies and would be more vigilant in the future. Board Chairwoman Laurie Rich Levinson called the audit part of “our pillar of continuous improvement.”

The district severed ties with U.S. Security in March. The company had been hired to provide after-hours security at bus depots and the district’s administrative headquarters building.

Aside from the extra charges, the company’s actual performance was another problem, the audit found.

“Per discussion with District staff, there were several instances where security guards were found sleeping while on duty,” the audit states.

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